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The Battle Between Nithya Raman and David Ryu Is a Glimpse at the Future of L.A. Politics

A liberal incumbent is being challenged by an even more progressive urban planner with big grassroots support in City Council District 4. What the race means for city hall dynamics

As election day approached last March, David Ryu had every reason to be confident. Having defeated city hall veteran Tom LaBonge’s chief of staff five years earlier in an upset victory, the first Korean American member of the Los Angeles City Council approached his reelection bid with all the trappings of incumbency: people knew Ryu’s name and his résumé, which included advocating for homeless housing projects and combating city hall corruption. History was on his side, too. A Los Angeles City Council incumbent had not lost a race since 2003. He also had that most precious election commodity: a bulging war chest. While his two competitors spent a combined $829,000 on the race, the Ryu machine dropped nearly $1.2 million—more than anyone running for any seat on the March ballot in Los Angeles. On top of that, independent groups such as unions representing police officers and firefighters spent another $200,000 filling local mailboxes with slick pro-Ryu endorsements. Yet when the final votes were tallied, political jaws hit the electoral […]

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